Skin-specific antibodies neutralizing mycolactone toxin during the spontaneous healing of Mycobacterium ulcerans infection

Sci Adv. 2020 Feb 26;6(9):eaax7781. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aax7781. eCollection 2020 Feb.


Buruli ulcer, a neglected tropical infectious disease, is caused by Mycobacterium ulcerans. Without treatment, its lesions can progress to chronic skin ulcers, but spontaneous healing is observed in 5% of cases, suggesting the possible establishment of a host strategy counteracting the effects of M. ulcerans. We reveal here a skin-specific local humoral signature of the spontaneous healing process, associated with a rise in antibody-producing cells and specific recognition of mycolactone by the mouse IgG2a immunoglobulin subclass. We demonstrate the production of skin-specific antibodies neutralizing the immunomodulatory activity of the mycolactone toxin, and confirm the role of human host machinery in triggering effective local immune responses by the detection of anti-mycolactone antibodies in patients with Buruli ulcer. Our findings pave the way for substantial advances in both the diagnosis and treatment of Buruli ulcer in accordance with the most recent challenges issued by the World Health Organization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / immunology*
  • Bacterial Toxins / immunology*
  • Buruli Ulcer / immunology*
  • Buruli Ulcer / microbiology
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology*
  • Macrolides / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mycobacterium ulcerans / immunology*
  • Mycobacterium ulcerans / pathogenicity
  • Skin / immunology*
  • Skin / microbiology


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Macrolides
  • mycolactone